Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

Leave No Trace!

Visit for more information about Desolation Wilderness. Visit or call 1- 877-444-6777 to make park reservations. Visit Campfire Permits to get a permit online. More about Leave No Trace principles.

April 30, 2012

American Canyon Trail and Waterfalls

One of several cascades we enjoyed finding, Tarzan vines and all!

Hike Length: 4.3 miles out and back, but there are a variety of options so you can choose up to 18.9 miles one way by hiking to Auburn, or other options that take you down to the river and connect with the Quarry Trail or WST. The trails are marked with mileage signs and trail names at forks.
Difficulty: Easy to strenuous depending on your choices.  Getting to some waterfalls is narrow and steep.
Elevation range of this hike: 891-1822 feet.

 As you can tell from the photo, we had the good luck of nice weather.  The trail has lots of shade and along with the creek, waterfalls and pools, it was a nearly perfect day!

The trail starts out wide and heads downhill, but soon enough it will narrow and occasionally the footing is less secure.    My hiking poles help me balance in the steep areas.  Good shoes help too.  At the first fork, go right, down toward the stream.

Wildflowers were blooming profusely in open sunny areas.

There are several creek crossings even for a short version of the hike but they are equipped with stones you can usually step across.

We sat at the top of this waterfall, in the shade, cooling off from our hike through dense, tall, rather pretty poison oak to get to this spot along the stream.  It involved a little boulder scramble and creek crossing too. We made it with dry feet and hardly any biting bugs!

For the adventurous, there is even a Tarzan vine hanging over the falls
and pool!  I am not saying try it out, but tempting, huh?

Downstream view of a pool from our snack/rest rock at the top of the falls.

Our next challenge was to get from our resting boulder up this stream to another waterfall and pool without wearing waders!  Some of the rocks are slippery, but we made it, more wet from sweat than the creek.

We arrived at this tranquil, inviting waterfall pool, and even more fun was the knowledge that we had a secluded wilderness experience right downhill from a neighborhood of hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians, but got the trails and pools to ourselves.

***The following photos are from Sept. 20, 2012.  Water was so low that I couldn't get a decent shot of American Falls, so settled for a few of the hike and the creek:

My first view of the canyon on this day's hike.

Beware of this evergrown area. 

 A rattler hissed and rattled but I froze.  I couldn't see it or tell where it was.  I finally shot straight up then forward and he missed me.  Stubborn snake didn't just slither into the vines, but hung out in the shade of the berry growth.
Looking for places to experiment with my new camera, I headed down the canyon farther and at this creek crossing found this fella.  You can see how little water was flowing.

Just another pretty bend in the creek with colorful foliage.

Driving directions:  Take Highway 193 east from Cool, California for 5.8 miles. Turn left on Sweetwater.  This is known as the third gate of the gated community.
If you see the sign for the town of Greenwood, turn around. On the day we went here the street sign was missing, so all I can suggest is drive slowly, watch your mileage, and make sure you don't pass the sign for Greenwood.
When you have turned, you will see the small free parking (in spring of 2012) at the trailhead on your right before the gated entry into Auburn Lake Trails Community.

ASRA ~ Auburn State Recreation District
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Updated 7-2013
Edited May 2014